Review: Descender #15

By Robert Larson

Well, Descender picks up a little bit with this issue, though it’s not exactly by much. All it does is manage to avoid retreading familiar ground in the never-ending series of flashbacks postponing the revelation of Tim’s fate. Is it interesting? Not particularly, because what we some of what we could have easily guessed, and the other piece is somewhat interesting but ultimately rushed, so it doesn’t come with a whole lot of emotional payoff. Business as usual? I suppose, but that’s not a good thing for this book. At least we might finally be done with this flashback horse-hockey and get back to advancing the narrative. Warning: I will be discussing spoilers.

This issue focuses on Andy and Effie. When Andy was evacuated from the mining colony, he was placed with a group of other orphans; Effie was one of them. They fell in love when they were older and ran away to become scrappers, but Effie gradually became disillusioned with the never-ending violence against robots. An accident only pushed her further away from Andy and everybody else, which brings us back to the present.

Even the format of these flashbacks has really started to bother me, in no small part they feel like a way to rush character development. We get Andy’s whole life all at once, whereas you could have told his part in this from the very beginning and stretched it out to make it feel meaningful. It’s also to throw Effie into this really quickly, which makes me wonder if this is in part because the narrative sprawled into too many characters too quickly. We did move through a lot of narrative ground in the first two arcs, and this whole arc has basically been spent fleshing out unknown bits.

At least with this issue what we learned seems like it could be relevant (or, ya know, we actually learned something). Andy’s obsession with the robots is pathological and ultimately paranoid; he’s looking for revenge wherever he can find it, even when it means burning down his life. Any of us could have guessed where this hatred is coming from, but it does have a certain tragic feel to it that the issue needs. But does that make their arc compelling? Not necessarily. They were put together so quickly here that their separation doesn’t really mean much, and then reunited just as quickly. (It doesn’t help that Effie seems so unpleasant as a child that her transformation into a decent human being feels really odd and out of place). At one level, this last arc has been a series of pacing problems to avoid telling Tim’s story, but each issue has also had pacing issues by moving too quickly.

Now, how he and Effie are going to end up reunited with Andy is kind of beyond me. If Descender follows its normal patterns, somebody is going to quite literally burst through a wall and spirit them away. I honestly can’t see how else it will happen, and if they become an excuse to further prolong telling what happened to Tim, I might throw the next issue into an incinerator.

Score: 2/5

Descender #15
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Dustin Nguyen
Publisher: Image Comics